This healthier creamy butter chicken more than satisfies your craving for the Indian restaurant down the street. Juicy chicken in a creamy tomato-based sauce full of flavor.
Is this recipe good for you?
I’m not going to pretend like this is the healthiest recipe on the blog but I did look into making it healthiER while still super delicious and as close to the original butter chicken recipe as possible.
By using 0% fat skyr yogurt and half the amount of sour cream instead of whipping cream we are significantly reducing the fat and calorie content. By using only a teaspoon of sugar we counteract the tomato sauce’s acidity without making the sauce overly sweet.
The most important component though is to add roasted veggies on the side. My favorite for this dish is roasted broccolini. And if you want another healthy side you can make quickly and easily make brown rice in the instant pot instead of white rice.
Instead of rice, you can also serve it with homemade naan bread.
How to make Butter Chicken in 6 easy steps
- Prep the marinade: you can use any unsweetened unflavored yogurt you like but my favorite is the 0% Icelandinc Skyr kind. Several brands are now offering this kind of yogurt. It’s thick like Greek yogurt but less tangy.
- Marinade the chicken for 20 minutes on the kitchen counter or several hours to overnight in the fridge. Make sure to store the marinated chicken in a sealable container.
- Sear the chicken pieces for 2-3 mins per side. It won’t completely cook through and that’s fine. You’ll simmer it later, that’s when it cooks through. Make sure to heat the pan really really well so the chicken doesn’t stick. Not on “high” but on medium heat for a “long” time (min. 5 mins). Also make sure, that if you marinated your chicken in the fridge to take it out of the fridge 15-20 minutes before it hits the pan. If you add super cold chicken to the hot pan it will stick completely to the pan. Sear the chicken pieces in 3-4 batches making sure the pan is never crowded and chicken pieces don’t touch. Set each batch aside in a bowl.
- Stir-fry onions and spices until softened. Stir-fry them in the same pan you seared the chicken in by adding some butter and scraping the burnt bits and pieces of the chicken from the bottom of the pan. Remember to use a silicone spatula if you are using a non-stick pan, to avoid damaging the non-stick coating.
- Blend the browned onion with the tomato passata, sour cream, sugar, and salt until super smooth. If you don’t have a blender you can omit this step.
- Simmer the chicken in the sauce. Add everything back into the pan, mix well and simmer for 5-15 minutes depending on which cut of chicken you used and how big you cut the chicken pieces.
How can I make this dairy-free?
You can easily make it dairy-free by using 1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk for the marinade and 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk for the sauce. It will have a coconutty flavor though so if you’re not a fan of that I don’t recommend it.
If you only need it to be lactose and casein-free you can use ghee instead of butter. However, if you are highly dairy intolerant use coconut oil or avocado oil just to be on the safe side.
Can I use chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs?
Yes, if you want to further reduce the calories of your butter chicken dish you can use chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs. Just make sure to not overcook the chicken breast pieces, they cook much faster than thighs.
2 minutes of searing per side and then 5 minutes of simmering will be more than enough.
Creamy Butter Chicken
- 1 Tbsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp crushed garlic
- 1 Tbsp grated ginger
- 1/2 cup unsweetened plain yogurt
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 1.5 lbs cubed skinless boneless chicken thighs
- 1 tsp avocado oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Make the marinade by adding yogurt, lime juice, 1 Tbsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1 Tbsp crushed garlic, and 1 Tbsp grated ginger to a large bowl and whisk until well combined.
- Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and add to the marinade. Use a spatula to mix well, then set aside for 20 mins on the kitchen counter or up to 12 hours in the fridge.
- Now is a good time to start making side dishes if you want any for your butter chicken.
- Preheat a large pan over medium heat for at least 5 minutes, then add a drizzle of avocado oil and once hot sear chicken pieces in 3-4 batches for 2-3 minutes per side only. Set chicken aside.
- Add 1 Tbsp butter to the same pan and lift off the burnt bits and pieces of the chicken, stuck to the bottom of the pan, and mix into the butter. Then add the chopped onion, 1 tsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp coriander, and 1/2 tsp chili powder and stir-fry until golden.
- Add stir-fried onion to a blender and add tomato sauce, sour cream, sugar, and salt to it and blend until smooth.
- Add the blended sauce and seared chicken back into the pan, mix well, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low immediately letting everything simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Serve with Naan Bread or with your side dishes and enjoy!